The Utility and Review Board is now placing the onus on Halifax Water to prove that residents must be charged with a fee for stormwater service. (CBC)

The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (UARB) has sided with consumers in a fee dispute with Halifax Water.

The decision relates to Halifax Water's 2013 rate application which included having a new charge for stormwater services. Some HRM residents argued the charge should did not apply to them because their properties had septic systems, so they shouldn't have to pay the utility to maintain culverts and ditches. This became known as the so-called "ditch tax."

Prior to today's ruling, it was up to the property owner to prove to Halifax Water that the stormwater fee was not applicable. To do that, it was necessary to hire a professional engineer to do an assessment.

"This onus can be costly... and is incorrectly placed," said the UARB in a written decision. "It should be the responsibility of HRWC to prove that the charge is appropriate."

Hammonds Plains resident Pamela Lovelace spearheaded a petition with over 1,500 signatures which was filed to the UARB. She is pleased with the ruling.

"This is really good news for the homeowner," she said. "This essentially says that the process by which Halifax Water has been running the reviews is faulty."

Halifax Water's spokesperson says the ruling could mean higher costs for the utility.